I’m very pleased to introduce Keri Stevens, one of my amazing critique partners. She’s a member of the Ohio Valley Romance Writers chapter, and many of you know her through Facebook and Twitter (@KeriStevens).
Anya: Tell us about Keri Stevens, soon-to-be-published-author. (If you’d read her story, I’m sure you’d agree!) What do you write, and how long have you been writing?
Keri: Thanks for having me (and for your words of support).
I’ve been writing since I learned to write. I wish I had some adorable tale about my ten-year-old self winning a blue ribbon at the county fair for her unicorn-and-puppy novella, but that didn’t happen. For me, writing, talking, singing and dancing are all of a piece: I communicate.
Depending on the message and my mood, the medium changes.
I write contemporary and paranormal romances, with the occasional dip into high fantasy.
Anya: In addition to your writing, you are multi-talented in other ways. Tell us about your interests and activities in your “real” life!
Keri: When I’m not staring at my three sons in bewilderment wondering how I will keep them alive until age 18, I run a part-time fitness business combining most of my other loves. As Radiant Fitness, I teach exercise classes (especially Oriental Dance), lead workshops on fitness, wellness, body-image and boundary setting and write wellness articles on contract. I get paid, therefore, to talk, write and dance (and even when I break out into the occasional song, someone still hands me a check at the end – amazing!)
Anya: Who are some of your favorite authors, and what are some of your favorite books? (For example, if you could only keep five books, what would they be?)
Keri: Authors on my keeper shelf include Gaiman, Gabaldon, Neal Stephenson, Scott Lynch, Jade Lee, Jenny Crusie, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Christina Dodd, LuAnn McLane, Toni Blake and Sherry Thomas.
As for the five books – yikes! The Bible first of all (to remind me, if anything, that it all really has been written and it’s okay to write it again). E.B. White’s Trumpet of the Swan (I read it 11 times in 2nd grade. How can I ever let that go?). Goodnight Moon (because the most emotional prose is heartbreakingly spare). Gabaldon’s Voyager (the best of the series because of its balance – still a meaty romance, but mature, rich and ripe in detail.) Jade Lee’s Hungry Tigress (it was the first romance my husband gave me.)
Anya: Still on the subject of books, which books/authors turned you on to romance?
Keri: The Lee book was seminal (*cough*). I’d read occasionally in the genre, but didn’t really start eating romance for breakfast, lunch and dinner until about six years ago. My husband gave me her book as a bit of a joke. Then I went out and read seven more. Then I found LuAnn McLane, Phillips, Krentz, Dodd, Sands and others at my local library and suddenly I was inhaling two or three books a day.
(Note from Anya: Here’s a photo of Keri with best selling author TONI BLAKE.)
Anya: Where would you like to see yourself in five years? In ten?
Keri: I’d like to spend the mornings writing mountains of novels. I’d like to spend the afternoons at booksignings wearing out my hand on mountains of novels. I’d like to spend the evenings drinking a little wine and contemplating my mountainous navel.
Anya: You are very well known on Twitter, but you haven’t been there really long. How did you become one of Twitter’s people to follow?
Keri: First of all, I come to Twitter to learn. Dozens of agents, editors and published authors share valuable information on Twitter. I follow as many people as I can so that I can lurk in those conversations and learn when the next call for submissions, query contest or change in publishing house staffing occurs.
But the medium lends itself to play. If you love a one-liner, twitter is the social media party for you. I don’t share a lot of industry info because I don’t have it. But I do aim to entertain. I think to build a following you must do one other the other – inform or entertain.
For the most part, it’s a joyful “place” – or at least my twitter stream is. I don’t talk politics. I rarely talk religion. I don’t follow whiners and I stay out of tweet wars. My purpose (in spite of my many less-than-professional tweets) is work, first and foremost. I’m a romance writer working towards publication, and I’m not going to put anything out there to undermine my goal of hurting my hand signing books.
Anya: You’re a Kentucky girl now – are you originally from KY or are you a transplant?
Keri: I’m a Missourian by birth, though I’ve done time in Arizona, North Carolina and Germany. Kentucky is close to my childhood home in culture and environment, but far enough away that I don’t have to fight to be a grown-up. We attended high school reunions recently and I was amazed – even after decades away everyone fell into old roles, old expectations and old patterns of communicating. I was 17 once, and once was enough!
Anya: What were some of your favorite books as a child? What books do you read to your kids now?
Keri: Oddly enough, I’m not the reader in our family. My husband has the bedtime story shift and that works for me. One book that I managed to recover from my elementary school discard pile is Eleanor Estes’s The Witch Family. I pull that one out again and again.
Although I don’t read to the boys, I do make up stories for them. Our backyard has a resident Wickedy Witch, Water Dragon and Chocolate-Milk Vampire, whose adventures, not surprisingly, mirror those of my sons.
Anya: What have been some important turning points in your life?
Keri: My life has been easy and relatively crisis free. William Styron would call me a “happy chucklehead,” to which I would reply, “Amen and praise be.”
I went to graduate school with the intention of becoming “A Writer.” After a couple of years gazing at my then-tiny navel with other 22-year-olds with nothing to say, I jumped ship to write grants, never intending to go back to fiction again.
As I got and lived a life, however, I realized I do have something to say after all – and that novels tell the truest truths.
Right about the time I’d devoured my thousandth romance novel, I bumped into LuAnn McLane. She was promoting Dark Roots and Cowboy Boots on a local TV show where I was promoting my belly dance classes.
We got to talking and I said . . .
. . . wait . . . I hate to admit this . . . deep breath . . .
“I’ve thought about writing a novel some day.”
LuAnn, to her credit, didn’t roll her eyes or throw up on my shoes. She just told me about the Ohio Valley RWA chapter. I came to the next meeting and joined the cult family.
Anya: If you were to write something other than romance, what would it be?
Anya: What are you working on now – tell us about your story.
Keri: My paranormal romance is Stone Kissed: When an arsonist torches a reluctant witch’s childhood home in rural Virginia, she wields her power to animate statues in order to heal the wounded house, to reconcile with the father who rejected her, to claim the heart of the ruthless treasure hunter for whom she longs, and to defeat the succubus trying to drain the magic from them all.
I’m editing a light-hearted contemporary – think Legally Blonde meets Survivorman. And I’m drafting/outlining a four-or-five book group about wives-for-hire.
Anya: Who are your hotties (in real life, fiction or TV/movies)?
Keri: I like ’em lean and rangy – Willem Dafoe, Heath Ledger, Clint Eastwood. I find that as I get older, my hotties must as well. If I could have given birth to the guy, I can’t fantasize about him. And a Nathan Kamp cover is practically an auto-buy.
Anya: What advice would you give someone starting out in fiction?
Keri: Butt in chair, fingers moving. I spend a lot of time on craft workshops (Todd Stone’s Novelist’s Boot Camp has saved me YEARS of wasted time), networking, researching the industry, et cetera, but the biggest differences in my writing over the past few years have come from – wait for it! – writing.
Anya: Tell us a couple of little-known facts about yourself.
(1) My signature is on Mars. Friends at the Jet Propulsion Lab scanned our signature and sent it up on some extra chip space on the Pathfinder rover, where it will molder for all eternity.
(2) I’m fluent in German, competent in French and tend to insult people’s mothers when I attempt Spanish.
Anya: When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Keri: I had great plans for learning all the major spoken and sign languages so that I might be able to speak with anyone on the planet.
Anya: Are you going to be attending any events/conferences this year?
Keri: They are all in the neighborhood, so to heck with my sons’ college educations! I’m going Romantic Times in Columbus, the Foster/Castell/Keller Reader-Author Get Together in Cincinnati and RWA in Tennessee.
(Note from Anya: Here is Keri with Gabriella Edwards at the 2009 Lori Foster Readers and Writers Get Together in West Chester, OH)
Anya: Thanks very much for visiting here today – I hope you’ll come back when you have a “call” story, which I’m sure won’t be long!
Keri: From your keyboard to God’s ear, Anya! Thank you for having me.
Friend Keri on Facebook
Follow her on Twitter: http://twitter.com/KeriStevens
Follow Keri’s blog
Read an excerpt of Keri’s story, STONE KISSED, in the post below. Her story is a finalist in the ENCHANTED WORDS contest.